Monday, April 7, 2014

L'Ecole des femmes par Jean-Baptiste Molière

In this classic Molière play from the 17th century which is not at all offensive to women…

Arnolphe is at first super pleased with himself because he has managed to raise his ward, Agnès, to be a silly idiot. In his opinion, the more ignorant and naive the woman, the better the wife she will make. He has essentially raised Agnès to be his "perfect wife."

But his plan goes awry when he is off on vacation or something and Agnès happens to meet a young, good-looking man named Horace. Horace is actually the son of one of Arnolphe's oldest friends. So when Arnolphe returns to the city, Horace meets him in the street and tells him all about his new amante.

Arnolphe is no idiot (she said sarcastically), so he quickly puts two and two together and endeavors to stop Agnès from loving Horace. It's harder than he thinks. It turns out that really ignorant, naive women aren't so good at picking up on subtle hints (or orders) to not fall in love with good-looking young men.

Suffice it to say that even while Arnolphe runs around trying to prevent the loss of his perfectly trained wife, he is pushing her further into the arms of Horace. So Arnolphe, in a sense, gets his just desserts.

Or does he? Poor Agnès is not really vindicated. The damage to women is pretty much done. And we all know that it's a farce--the play is actually dedicated to a woman. We know that Molière is critiquing men like Arnolphe, and even men like Horace and some of the other men in the play. But he doesn't really give Agnès her due either.

I understand why this was popular back in the day. It is hilarious half of the time. But the other half, it's just sad and pathetic. Classic Molière.


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